Sometimes I wonder what goes through the minds of some authors while they are writing a story. They are painstakingly constructing (or trying to) a narrative that is intriguing and attention-grabbing, while pouring their hearts and souls into a story. How can they not notice what a clusterfuck it’s all adding up to be?
I should preface this by pointing out I almost did not finish this. I only did because this was this month’s pick for my book club, and I find it unnacceptable for me to show up not having finished it – I mean, how can I badmouth something I did not read? That said, I’ll try and give you guys a summary so that you do not have to fight through 500+ pages of WTF is going on here?
I can’t even remember how it begins, to be honest. Some guy is found dead and quartered in a high school somewhere, and somehow some national police guy who knows better than everyone else gets himself assigned to what is supposed to be a local case, just for kicks. The crime scene is gruesome, and turns out the family has also been attacked in their home, killing the with wife and youngest daugther, while the son survived with a crapload of stab wounds.
As the oldest daughter is MIA and feared to be the next target of the murderer, the detective decides to call up a doctor who used to be a hypnotist – but does not do that anymore – to hypnotise the semi-comatose boy into telling them what happened and how to find his sister.
If you do plan to read this book eventually, skip this part because this is gonna be full of spoilers, and I’ll see you at the end for my opinion.
And so it starts.
Enter the doctor who is a drug addict, living off sleeping pills so he doesn’t have to deal with his supremely resentful and insufferable wife (who can’t get over the fact that she was cheated on 10 years ago). They have a teenaged kid who has a rare blood disorder, and needs weekly injections so he won’t bleed to death.
He hypnotises the kid (the one in the hospital)
because he gets off on it even though he swore he would never hypnotise anyone ever again for non-disclosed reasons. The kid confesses to murdering the entire family. But then says the older sister made him do it (?).
Cue people being shocked and multiple journalists showing up at his doorstep and putting cameras on the doctor’s son’s face because hypnosis is bullshit – and the confession was implanted by the doctor – and he is the root of all evil. ¬¬
Super detective and self-tortured-addict-doc find the sister who doesn’t wanna talk, but then does, and it turns out her little brother had been sexually assaulting her for years by threatening to kill her family. Apparently, since she said no, he made good on his promise.
This is where I should have stopped. Because, really.
But no, I am the idiot who can’t leave books unfinished.
While all these things are happening, the doc and the wife are fighting because she’s afraid he’s screwing anything that moves, while I’m fairly certain with all the pills he’s taking he couldn’t get it up to save his life. She can’t make up her mind whether to divorce him and he’s can’t muster up the strengh to give a fuck. Then again, neither could I.
Then suddenly the raping-murderous-16-year-old escapes from the hospital by killing several people unstopped. And someone completely unrelated is breaking into the doc’s apartment, drugging the wife and kidnapping the son. And the father-in-law gets involved, and they go putting their noses where they don’t belong and allow the raping-murderous kid to disappear; and then uncover this bizarre pokemon inspired gang of 6-year-olds who are involved with the son’s girlfriend mentally disabled brother and somehow the father-in-law ends up thrown in front of a bus, and later almost drowned. I know. I can’t even.
But guess what? This all has absolutely no impact on the story whatsoever. Really – you could have inserted anything else in here and it’d have had the same result.
Oh, yes, while this is happening the wife finds the time to screw some artist guy – let’s call him Plot Device #387 – whose only reason for existing is to fuck and die… but we’ll get to that.
This is when we suddenly get thrown into the past for 100 pages or so (I’m not sure – I read on my phone and there it had 1300 pages – and it felt like it). Suddenly, they decide to tell us all that happened 10 years ago. It takes soon long. Because we don’t get the important things – we get everything. Basically, the doc was screwing with people’s minds
because he gets off on it for a study where he had group hypnosis therapy for abuse victims/perpetrators. The author tries to misdirect us onto focussing on a new patient who keeps getting naked, but really – they are all creepy as fuck.
And meanwhile, the doc is also getting busy with some random crazy woman who is getting possibly insider information into his research / into his pants / working on getting him to lose his medical license / marriage. Or wait, why did she do that again? Never explained – it was just another convenient plot device.
When inevitably the doc discovers that one of his creepy as fuck
hypno-orgy partners patients is still torturing little kids, she pretends it never happened, tries to kill herself and sues the doctor/hospital who in conjunction with the info provided by the woman listed above uses it as a reason to fire the doc and ban him from hypnosis. And then he believes he was wrong along and promises on TV to never use hypnosis again.
Isn’t it wonderful? ¬¬
I mean, seriously? The whole hypnosis thing is already a bit of a stretch, but whole pubicity thing? As if people don’t have better things to do. But I digress. None of these conflicts presented will be resolved.
Suddenly we’re thrust back into present day where super detective and damaged doc are going after the misdirection attempt/10-years-ago new patient with boundary issues (who turns out is dead – though it was never explained why); father in law is running after the murdering pokemon kids (whose arc was never resolved): and wife dearest is getting fucked uncomfortably on her knees by plot device #387 who is then immediately killed by the raping-murderous kid, who showed up out of the blue while wife’s in the shower. Had you forgotten about him too? Yeah, he shows up out of the blue with his sister – stabs plot device #387, tries to stab wife and ends up stabbed by the sister.
Enough about that, somehow doc realises hey, maybe I should look at the lady that sued me out of business by blaming me for her suicidal tendencies. Oh, yeah, I forgot about that, but long before raping-murderous kid was found, super-detective had already abandoned that case and was leading the son’s abduction case. So he and doc embark on a journey to find crazy lady.
Oh, I forgot – the only reason she was able to kidnap the son was because she had told him she was his biological mother, which he believed, and promptly gave her his house key. Something that is suddenly revealed by the son’s girlfriend.
Now I can’t even try to begin to explain the clusterfuck that comes next.
They find the body of a 5-year old buried 10 years prior in her house – vindicating doc, but we never know what happens there. The son called his mom while plot device #387 was getting his throat cut, so the doc administers a magic drug that makes him wake up from the coma just for a few seconds and be able to speak to them and tell them they’re with one of the other old patients.
Super-detective, no-longer-an-addict-just-because-he-stopped-and-never-dealt-with-it-doc, and wife take a plane close to the pole, local police is unreliable, the crazy lady who cuts off people’s noses kills the patient whose house they took over, and is now only with the one who tortured political prisoners in the old Yugoslavia and some other character I have no idea where came from, but was there to attack mean lady so the son whose disorder should by now have made his blood vessels explode just by standing up could run away.
When the cavalry eventually arrives, they are overpowered by the bad guys until son wakes up and drives a bus into the tree. Nonsense ensues – somehow son and crazy lady end up in the bus drowning in a frozen lake where doc appears with a life jacket, saves the son, and gets shot by the crazy woman before being rescued while she dies in the truck.
END OF SPOILERS
Confusing, no? All in all there are so many characters, 90% of them completely disposable, and not one even remotely likable. And so many paralel plots that are created becaused they are convenient and then promptly forgotten, never explained, developed or wrapped up. I just wanted it to be over, not because I cared what happened to these people whatsoever, but because it just went on and on and on.
There was an unecessary and unexplained need to turn every kid in this book into either a murdering-raping psychopath, an evil-violent-monster, or a victim of a terrible crime – which I didn’t understand at all.
A good editor should have cut about 200-300 pages from this book, along with 70% of the characters and 90% of the supporting plots. One should not be allowed to forget about the main antagonist for 100 pages, only to have him come back and die in less than 2, and no one to even care.
In writing, more is NOT better. Making a story busy and convoluted does not hide the fact it’s shitty. If you’re in the mood for a swede thriller, do yourself a favour and pick up Stieg Larsson instead.